Cuts of beef for braising are generally well-marbled with fat. This makes them ideal for long, slow cooking as it gives them time to soften and melt into the meat. They also have enough fat that they don’t need a lot of extra oil added while they are cooking. I wouldn’t use one of these cuts of beef if I was going to grill or roast it. The long, slow cooking will cause the fat to break down and make the tip tough and hard to chew.
How to Braise Meats to Achieve the Most Tender Cuts of Beef, Lamb, and More
There’s nothing more appetizing than coming home to the aroma of meat braising until ultra-tender. Chefs and home cooks alike love this hands-off method of slow simmering because it’s economical, it’s easy, and it yields amazing results. Here you’ll learn how to braise meat (veggies, too!) for the juiciest cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and more.
If you’re a meat-and-potatoes kind of person, knowing how to braise meat is a pretty important skill to have. But for anyone new to braising meats, there’s no need to be intimidated. We’re here to help. So what does it mean to braise meat? Braising is simply a cooking method that involves browning meat or vegetables in oil, then cooking them in a small amount of liquid in a covered pan, either on the stovetop or in the oven. The long, slow cook time helps develop flavor and turn even the toughest of meat cuts fork-tender. One of the most popular types of braised beef is pot roast, which is usually a chuck or round roast with added vegetables. Pork and lamb are also delicious when braised. Follow along to learn how to braise meat in the oven or on the stovetop. Then give some of our best braising recipes a try.
How to Braise Meat
These three steps are the key to braising meats of pretty much any cut or size. Some of the best meats to braise include beef short ribs or roast, brisket, pork, and lamb.
Step 1: Brown the Meat
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (if you’re oven braising).
- Trim excess fat from the meat.
- Heat about 2 Tbsp. oil in a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven ($50, Target) over medium heat. (A Dutch oven is a large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. It makes a perfect braising pot because it can be used on the stove or in the oven.) A large skillet may be used for smaller or thinner cuts of meat such as pork chops.
- Season the meat with salt and pepper. Add the meat to the hot oil. You should hear it sizzle. Brown the meat on all sides, turning as needed (cook the meat just until brown on the outside but not cooked all the way through). Remove the browned meat from the pan and pour off any fat. Return the meat to the pan.
Step 2: Add Liquid and Seasonings
Now it’s time to get creative! The following suggestions are for a 2½- to 3-pound beef or pork roast, or four bone-in beef or lamb shanks (about 1 pound each). Combine the liquid and seasonings, then pour around the meat.
- Liquid: Use about ¾ cup total. Some common options to consider include beef or vegetable broth, apple juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, a combination of broth and dry wine, or water.
- Dried Herbs: Add about 1 tsp. dried basil, herbes de Provence, Italian seasoning, oregano, or thyme. If you’ve got fresh herbs, use 1 Tbsp. snipped. To mimic the flavor of herbes de Provence with fresh herbs, try using equal parts rosemary, savory, and oregano with just a pinch of thyme.
- Liquid Seasoning: These flavor enhancers are optional. If desired, add 1 Tbsp. barbecue sauce, Dijon-style mustard, low-sodium soy sauce, steak sauce, or Worcestershire sauce.
Step 3: Braise Meat Until Tender
Cover the pan and cook over low heat on top of the stove or in the oven for approximately 1 to 3 hours depending on the cut you’re using. This low and slow time allows the meat to become super tender. Check on the amount of liquid and add more to the pan if necessary during the process so the meat doesn’t dry out. Once the meat can easily pull apart using a fork, it’s done.
Lamb Braising Times: Lamb shanks weighing ½ to 1 pound should be braised for 1½ to 2 hours until the internal temperature reaches 160°F (medium) on a meat thermometer ($20, Bed Bath & Beyond).
Turning Braised Meats into a Meal
Transform a braised meat dish into a meal by adding potatoes and veggies about 30 to 45 minutes before the meat is done. Be sure to cover the pan tightly after adding potatoes and veggies. Here are some guidelines:
- Potatoes. Use about 1 pound of potatoes for a typical 2½- to 3-pound roast. Peel and quarter medium-size potatoes and/or sweet potatoes. If using new potatoes, peel a strip of skin from the centers.
- Other Vegetables. Use about 1 pound total. These should be cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Consider peeled butternut squash, peeled carrots or parsnips, sliced celery, trimmed and sliced fennel bulb, sliced leeks or shallots, trimmed mushrooms, onion wedges or peeled pearl onions, and peeled turnips or rutabaga.
Braised beef is made with pieces of meat that would otherwise be chewy and impossible to eat. These include chuck roasts, beef briskets, some rump roasts, shoulder roasts, and arm roasts. These cuts of meat, when partially submerged in a liquid and braised for several hours, become tender and quite delicious. This is because the collagen (which usually makes these roasts tough and inedible) slowly melts away during the long braising process. This is why we use tough cuts of meat for braising. Tender cuts of meat should be cooked other ways. If you braised a tender cut of meat, it would turn into mush. The following is my braised beef chuck roast recipe.
Braised Beef Chuck Roast Recipe
- Buy the right cut of beef to braise. For this article I purchased a two-pound chuck roast. Since it is small, I will only have to braise it for two to two and a half hours. If it were a three- or four-pound roast, I might braise it for as long as three and a half to four hours. The key to good braised beef is sticking to the tougher cuts of meat which need long, slow and moist cooking. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F now and season the beef with salt and pepper.
- Prep the veggies and other ingredients for the braised beef. Cut the carrots into large chunks, so they take longer to cook. Mince the onions, so they melt into the sauce. For the garlic, just cut off the dry end and flatten the cloves with your knife. Cut the bacon into thick chunks. The parsley is for a garnish at the end, but chop it up now so it’s ready later. Also, measure out the beef stock and port wine now.
- Brown the beef on all sides. Heat up the braising pan or Dutch oven on the stove top to medium-high heat. Melt four tablespoons of butter in the pan. Begin searing the beef when the butter just starts to turn brown. Sear the beef on all sides until it is dark brown over most of the surface. Remove the beef to a plate while you perform the next step.
- Add the veggies and bacon to the braising pan. Fry the bacon, onions, carrots, and garlic in the pan using a wooden spoon with a flat tip so that you can scrape some of the drippings off of the bottom without destroying your pan. Once the onions begin to turn translucent and the bacon is browned, move onto the next step.
- Add the beef broth and port wine to deglaze the pan. Stir and scrape at the bottom of the pan with the wooden spoon. Turn the heat off on the stove and put the browned beef back into the pan. If the liquid doesn’t go halfway up the side of the beef, add a little water until it does. Put the bay leaf and the thyme in the pan, cover it, and put the pan into the oven. Set the timer for one hour.
- After one hour, remove the braised beef. Make sure to use good oven mitts and be careful not to spill. Set the braising pan down and use an oven mitt to remove the lid. Use a pair of tongs to flip the roast. Put the lid back on and put it back in the oven. Set the timer for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, flip it again. Then put it back in for thirty more minutes. After that time has elapsed, check the meat to see if it is fork-tender. If it is not, cook in additional thirty minute intervals until it is.
- Rest the braised beef and finish the sauce. Once it is fork-tender, remove the braised beef carefully from the juices and let it rest on a cutting board. Lightly drape or tent some aluminum foil. Remove the vegetables from the sauce with a slotted spoon and put them in the serving dish. Reduce the braising liquid until its thick. If the liquid is already flavorful or too salty, thicken it with a roux or gelatin rather than reducing it. Slice the braised beef and serve it with the vegetables and the sauce. Garnish with parsley.
Tips & Tricks
- Use a good, fresh-looking piece of meat. If you can, try grass-fed meat; it’s leaner and has good fatty acids in it.
- If you have no braising pan or Dutch oven, use a cake pan and cover it with aluminum foil or use a stock pot.
- Don’t worry about trimming the fat off. It’s all good.
- In this beef chuck roast recipe there is no room for Lipton’s onion soup mix.
- Make sure to have an oven thermometer inside of your oven at all times. Oven thermostats are not to be trusted.
- Braised meat dishes work well with lamb or brisket, too.
- Because of the gelatin in the bone, a piece of meat with a bone in it will make a more flavorful sauce.
- Braised meat dishes are made with otherwise chewy pieces of meat that, when braised, become tender and delicious.
How to Braise
Braising means cooking something in a small amount of liquid. Usually braising involves large cuts of meat (like bottom round aka rump roast), but chicken legs, lamb shanks, and oxtails are also braise-able. Basically, anything that will benefit from long, slow cooking can benefit from braising. So cuts of meat with lots of tough connective tissue that will break down and become tender, unctuous gelatin and meat that falls off the bone are pretty much made for braising. These cuts tend to be cheaper and less popular than cuts like chicken breast, beef tenderloin, pork or lamb chops that can be quickly broiled or grilled, but they also tend to be more deeply flavorful.
- Brown the MeatIn a heavy pot or pan over medium-high heat, cook the meat in a bit of oil, butter, or lard until the meat is well browned. Put the meat in the pan and cook, without moving, until the meat is browned and releases of its own accord from the pan. Turn and repeat on any and all remaining sides.
- Deglaze the PotRemove the meat from the pot. Add a bit of wine, beer, or water with some vinegar or lemon juice to the pot. The acid will help release the browned bits clinging to the pot. Scrape up any browned bits that prove stubborn in the face of the acid treatment; they are the source of great flavor.
- Add SeasoningsAromatics (i.e. garlic, onions), vegetables, herbs, and spices will add flavor and body to the final dish. Return the meat to the pot.
- Pour In LiquidAdd enough stock, wine, beer, and/or water to partially submerge the meat – about 1/3 to 1/2 of the meat should be under liquid. This is opposed to stewing in which the meat (usually smaller pieces) is completely covered by liquid for a long, slow cooking time.
- Overnight It, If You CanLike stews, braises tend to taste better if allowed to cool and then reheated – the sitting around and waiting lets the flavors get to know each other and blend into one perfect whole.
- Cover and CookCover the pot and simmer until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender. Braises can be simmered on the stove or put in a 350 to 375 F oven.